Bailey Faulkner, director of Ozark Mission Project, on how the youngest people in the community can have an invaluable impact on the oldest.
For someone who is unfamiliar with OMP, what is OMP and what do they do?
Ozark Mission Project (OMP) brings youth groups to camp sites across Arkansas, where they engage with the surrounding communities through service. These youth and adults serve individuals and families, our neighbors, who are in need of minor construction and yard work. On the surface, the benefit is purely physical — a wheelchair ramp installed, a porch repaired, a house painted, a lawn mowed—but the impact is deep and lasting: a disabled neighbor can move around on her own, a struggling single mom has a new sense of pride in her home, a retiree can sip sweet tea on his sturdy porch.
OMP began in 1986 with one camp in the Ozarks and 35 participants. Today, we host 13 camps each summer, one winter college camp and a day camp serving all four corners of Arkansas. Through our physical service projects, we strive to meet social and emotional needs by spending part of our time visiting, sharing lunch and, if the neighbor so chooses, a devotional. OMP offers year-round mission opportunities for any group wanting to work in Arkansas. The experience our youth and volunteers have at OMP truly does leave a lasting impact.
Are you primarily part of a religious denomination, or can anyone get involved?
While we are a mission of the Arkansas Area United Methodist Church, anyone can get involved! The groups that partner with us to serve communities in our state represent many different religions. Our hope is that other civic groups will get involved, such as school clubs and boy/girl scout troops.
“Ozark Mission Project has not only helped me but our whole neighborhood. This program is truly a blessing because when people are at their lowest, someone comes in and gives them a helping hand. Then you have teenagers who are so energetic and so vibrant and ready to help — that is a blessing in itself.” – Maggie Hawkins
What are the biggest challenges OMP faces?
Always money and putting together the right team of volunteers for each camp. We need volunteers who enjoy construction, cooking and helping lead team building games with youth. Since OMP serves over 12 communities each summer, we are always looking for community partners that can help us identify individuals that need assistance, such as the minor home repairs. It’s our volunteers that help make our camp experience one that makes a lasting difference.
What gets you out of bed every morning?
Sunrise Yoga at Arkansas Yoga Collective. For me, a routine of morning yoga has changed my life in so many healthy ways while enabling me to react to daily life challenges more effectively. Taking a little time for myself at the start of each day allows me to feel centered, happy and live in the present moment.
Is there a particular story or experience with OMP that really stayed with you?
One of our youth teams built a wheelchair ramp for an elderly woman that lived by herself. She wasn’t able to get out of her house on her own and relied on her family and neighbors to assist her. That lady called to let me know that her house caught on fire, and the wheelchair ramp we built saved her life. Every summer, I see firsthand the impact our youth are making on our community and the relationships formed between both the youth and the families we work with.
How can people get involved?
Call 501.664.3232 or visit OzarkMissionProject.org to learn how you can send a team to camp, volunteer or become a community partner.